In the Night Farm…Your Ride is Here.

Boots & Barefoot

Back Countries All Around

Acey’s second pair of 00 Back Countries arrived last week, and we took our first test ride on Wednesday.  Here she is, all ready to go in her new boots and Stonewall saddle.  Isn’t she CUTE?

Sorry, couldn’t resist. Back to the boots:

1. The LocTite worked. I had no further issues with screws coming loose (on the boots, anyway…) while riding.

2. Something about Acey makes the velcro on her hind boots come unfastened very easily. The top two layers of the 3-layer velcro system kept coming undone on the near side, leaving the gaiter flapping along as she trotted. I couldn’t get it to stay put for more than a couple strides. This happened just once on the off side boot. Maybe she’s catching it against the opposite boot, which would explain why the off side wasn’t as much of a problem, as the boots are identical so each top layer of velcro points the same direction. Acey handled the flapping gaiter just fine and the boots stayed on and didn’t twist, but obviously we need a fix for this. Duct tape all the way around the gaiter? Not ideal, but it would probably do the job.

3. Acey trots really, really fast with all four feet booted.


A $12 Experiment: Easyboot Back Countries with 12mm Pads

Yes, I tried it.  Yes, I know you aren’t supposed to.  Yes, it worked.

Those of you who are familiar with Easyboots know that the Gloves and their Back Country cousins (which use the same shell with a different gaiter) are supposed to be used without pads, though it is commonly observed that the 6mm pads work just fine.  The 12mm pads are intended for use with other boot styles whose fit isn’t as precise.

I wouldn’t have attempted to use 12mm pads in Acey’s BCs if I hadn’t ordered them by accident.  But, since I had them on hand and it didn’t seem worth the cost of shipping to return them, I figured it was worth a shot.  You’ll recall that because Acey is so tiny, even her 00 BCs are bigger on her than I’d like.  They’re probably a full size up from a nice, tight fit.

I’ve observed in the past that the 6mm pads crush quite a bit, and quickly.  I find that a single ride smashes them to practically nothing around the hoof wall.  This doesn’t seem to be a problem, as padding remains in the sole area, and I thought the crushing might come into play favorably in my 12mm pad experiment.

By the way, I’m not the first to try this.  Easycare rep Alayna Wiley offers this blog post on the subject; it didn’t work so well for her.  The boots twisted.

But what the heck.  I cut the medium-density, 12mm pads down to 00 size and stuffed them in Acey’s boots.  They certainly looked thick, coming up high enough to cover half of the heel screw.  Without overlarge boots and significant crushing, this would never work.

Overlarge boots?  Check.  Even with the thick pads, the BCs went on Acey’s feet easily.  I walked her around a bit to make sure they were seated, then double-checked the gaiter tightness.  So far, so good.

Now to crush the pads.  I saddled up and we hit the road for a few miles at a walk and bounding trot.  (It was windy and Acey was, er, more enthusiastic than absolutely necessary.)  I checked the boots frequently for twisting or other issues.  Nothing.  The only change seemed to be positive:  reduced “slop-and-clop” from the outsized boots.

Acey seemed to feel really, really good!  Even better than usual.  Was it the weather, or the pads?  Oh, and she was also a few millimeters taller.  😉

At the end of our ride, the boots remained perfectly in place.  I removed them to find the pads crushed down to where they looked about like brand-new (un-crushed) 6mm pads.  The screw in back was now fully exposed and the pad had settled down to consume less room all around.

Hmm.  This could work.

Now, I’m not advocating the use of 12mm pads in Gloves or Back Countries under normal circumstances.  I have yet to decide whether I’ll continue with them for Acey.  Further tests will tell us more.  But, it does seem that under peculiar circumstances such as ours, it’s at least a possiblity worth mentioning.


Coming Unscrewed

Acey wore her Easyboot Back Countries for another, brisk, 8-mile ride yesterday.  Having learned my lesson last time, I tightened all the screws that attach the gaiters to the shells. 

We had no problems at all with the boots during the ride, but I dismounted at home to discover that, once again, the front two screws (the “Power Strap” section) had come completely loose on the left front.  I’m amazed that we haven’t managed to lose a single screw or washer yet!

I know Easycare tests their products thoroughly, and they apparently haven’t encountered this issue — at least, not frequently enough that it required a manufacturing change.  I suspect Acey’s boots are being subjected to a greater-than-normal amount of vibration because they really are on the outside edge of the sizing flexiblity. 

My plan is to take Funder’s suggestion of applying some Loctite Threadlocker.  I was concerned about the idea at first because I didn’t want to preclude my ability to replace shells or gaiters, but Loctite’s website claims that the Threadlocker bond can be broken using hand tools.  I reckon it’s worth a try.


Going Guinea Pig: First Easyboot Back Country Test

I tried not to think too hard about missing the Tough Sucker endurance ride yesterday.  I gather from Facebook that it turned out to be a small ride — only about 26 entrants in the 50 — but the weather was pretty nice despite a frosty morning and some afternoon wind.  I keep reminding myself that we didn’t get to any rides last year until June, and still racked up over 500 miles.  Consolation’s new saddle should arrive this week and put us back in business.

In the meantime, I’ve been working on hoof trims and boot fitting.  You may recall the great difficulty I’ve had finding boots for Acey’s teeny-tiny feet.  In Easyboot sizes, she seems to fall somewhere between 000 and 00 (yes, I know the sizes vary by model, but you get the point).  The ooo Epics are too small, and I don’t care for Epics anyway.  The 00 Gloves, which is as small as they come, are slightly too big.  So when the Back Countries came out, I ordered some.

I looked for reviews first, but found few.  It seems like everyone is holding off until someone else tries the new boots first.  They’re a bit more expensive than Gloves, after all, and if it ain’t broke…

I’d have waited, myself, if I hadn’t been so desperate.  But I was at the point of asking around for a good farrier for Acey, as much as I’d rather avoid horseshoes, and decided to be on the guinea pig end of this one.  I ordered a pair of Back Countries for $72.95 each, with free shipping, from Valley Vet.

The Back Country boots are basically Gloves with a different gaiter system and a built-in PowerStrap.  The new features make fitting a little more flexible; that is, you can get away with a boot that is slightly too big according to the Glove fitting guide.  This is exactly what I needed for Acey, as the 00 Gloves aren’t terribly huge on her, but the “V” at the front of the boot doesn’t spread properly and she’s prone to trot out of them on the trail.

Yesterday, after a fresh trim, I put the 00 Back Countries on her for the first time.  They went on as easily as Easyboot claims — no need for a mallet, but almost, which I considered a good thing.  So far, so good.  I booted both fronts, then moved Acey around the round corral a bit.  She forged some (not unusual for her) but seemed comfortable and the boots stayed put.  I tried them on her hinds next, with similar results.  Finally, I put both boots on the same side, one in front and the other in back.  No problems.

Note:  I tweeted a photo that I can’t seem to get to post here.  You can check it out at @BarbeyGirl on Twitter.

It was a brief test.  We didn’t leave the round corral for a trail test, but I’m hopeful that this is going to work!  I’ll test this pair on her fronts on the trail next, and if it goes well, I guess I’ll pick up a second pair.

Next, I need to decide what to order for Consolation — Gloves or Back Countries?  We’ve had good luck with Gloves in the past, but have had a few issues as they got stretched out, particularly in hot weather.  Power Straps have proven quite difficult to install, and don’t necessarily solve the problem.  I think the Back Countries might be just the ticket.  What I don’t know is whether the new gaiter style will bother her or not.

There might be just one way to find out.


Gang Aft Agley

Sigh.

The best laid schemes o’ mice an’ men…

The hoof clinic is cancelled, courtesy of EHV-1.  Too many people dropped out.  (On the subject of EHV-1, if you haven’t read Fandango head vet Dr. Washington’s thoughts, you should.  Merri quoted him here (scroll down to the bold section).

As for my plans, I reckon I’ll haul Consolation along to Oreana tomorrow evening instead of today.  Perhaps Christoph will be so kind as to take a quick peek at Consolation’s hooves sometime Thursday.  I’d really value his opinion as I make my final decision about riding on Friday.


Plan

This is fascinating:  Yesterday, I queried all of you regarding your thoughts on whether I should try a 50 on Consolation at Fandango.  I asked the same question of several, experienced endurance riders I know and respect in real life.

The endurance horse lovers, unanimously, said “yes.”  The non-endurance horse lovers, also unanimously, said (or at least suggested) “no.” 

Team Yes cited the opportunity to make better and/or different observations regarding Consolation’s physical and mental status.  They noted that I could pull if necessary.  They reminded me how well horses hold their conditioning during periods of rest.  Nothing ventured, nothing gained.

Team No felt that the risks outweighed the benefits.  The “best” that could happen isn’t worth the “worst” that could happen.  What I would lose by staying home is less significant than what I could lose by going.  Better safe than sorry.

All fair points.  Taken together, they reminded me of this discussion held on this blog way back in November 2008, regarding the moral question of whether we ought to risk our horses in this sport at all.  (Shout out to Lori, who is among my most loyal readers and who initiated that conversation with her excellent comment.)

But that is neither here nor there…and the same goes for me.  I am still deciding about Fandango.  But, I have a plan:

Wednesday — Haul Consolation to ride camp for an all-day hoofcare for the endurance horse clinic with Christoph Schork and Dr. Olin Balch.  (The venue changed from a rented arena to ride camp.)  The clinic will include an evaluation of Consolation’s feet, which will contribute significantly to my ride decision.

Thursday — Hang out in ride camp, where additional demos and discussions regarding barefoot care for endurance horses will take place.  Make a decision about whether or not to ride.  Stay or go accordingly.

Friday — Ride?

This strikes me as a worthy plan.  Extra time.  Additional information.  No wasted moves.

What say you?


If the Boot Fits

Ah-ha!  I think I’m a step closer to solving my hoof booting issue with Acey.

I took some time yesterday to give her front hooves a fresh trim, then measure their length and width for comparison to the fitting charts on Easycare’s website.  No wonder Acey’s feet are hard to fit!  Those round little hooves really are quite round: 

Left front — 105 mm wide, 108 mm long

Right front — 105 mm wide, 111 mm long (I think this toe will come back a hair more with future trims)

Basically, my problem isn’t that the 00 Gloves are too small; it’s that Acey’s hooves aren’t the shape for which Gloves are designed.  In fact, her width is appropriate for an 0, but her length is only 00.  As you can see from the photos below, the 00 Gloves are tight on the sides, but there’s waaaaay too much gapping in front.  Wall angle may be another factor here.

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So, what to do?  It seems that Epics might fit, but I’m not excited about the prospect for a couple reasons:

  • Epics cost $80 apiece, which is about $25 more than a Glove.
  • I’m pretty sure Epics are much, much harder to get on and off than Gloves are.  I remember all too well the wrestling match I used to have with Aaruba’s Bares.  It was miserable.  I really don’t want to do that again.  (Note that I haven’t actually tried Epics before; perhaps they’re easier than I think…but I doubt it, given the fitting description on Easycare’s site.  Anybody know?)

Speaking of Bares, I actually have several 00’s lying around.  According to the Easycare charts, they ought to fit Acey.  I was planning to find out yesterday, but a thunderstorm blew in and we all had to run for cover.  I’ll try again soon.

With luck, the Bares will work for now.  If they don’t fit or are too difficult to install, we can always haul out to dirt trails for rides.  And this summer, I hear, Easyboot will introduce a wide version of the Glove.  Hooray!

ETA:  Looks like Amanda at Chronicles of the Pink Helmet is exploring similar, wide-foot booting challenges.  See her post here.